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Remove Excess Surface Water With a Properly Designed French Drain

Posted by: Samuel Hirshfield on November 18, 2013


The French drain was invented in the mid 1800s as a means of directing water away from building foundations and preventing premature erosion and basement flooding. The benefits of French drain design extend beyond your home and into the yard, where problem areas may become waterlogged each time it rains, rendering them unusable. Read on to learn more about how this type of drain system works and the most effective method of design.

What Is a French Drain?

Simply put, a French drain is a gravel-filled trench which acts as a channel for the passage of water runoff. Designed to run downhill, this drainage system relies on gravity to do all the work, directing runoff to a more desirable location.

Elements of French Drain Design

  • Know which end is up. There are two ends to a French drain: the higher end, or drain field, where the water enters the system and the lower end, or drain exit, where the water leaves. For the drain to work properly, there must be a minimum of one percent slope between them, or one inch slope per every eight feet in length.
  • Plan your exit. Map out the location for your drain exit, choosing an area that's dry, sunny and downhill. Also be sure you select a spot close by to keep the system short and directed away from neighboring yards.
  • Call 811 before you break ground. What seems like a simple phone call is a serious safety check. The operators at 811 will alert utility companies in your area of your plans and professional locators will be dispatched to mark the respective lines with flags or spray paint. 
  • Start digging. Once you’ve determined the path your drainage system will take, it’s time to dig your trench. This can be done quickly and easily with the help of a trencher.
  • Lay your materials. Landscape fabric or other material can be laid in the bottom of the hole, followed by the perforated drain pipe. The trench is then filled with gravel and the landscape fabric folded back over top to protect the pipe and keep it clean. At this stage more gravel or topsoil and turf can be added to finish the project.

French drain design is simple in theory, and the installation is relatively quick and easy. For more of a detailed step-by-step guide, check out our "How To Install a French Drain (Ten Steps)" blog post. Or for more information about renting a trencher for the job, or for other rental equipment needs, contact Compact Power Equipment Rental

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Images via Shutterstock.comAustin Architects & Designers/Root Design

Tags: DIY, french drain, installing a french drain, surface water, water, excess surface water, surface water removal, trencher, equipment rental